Was Japan's penalty shootout the worst ever?

Japan players show dejection after their defeat through the penalty shoo during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Japan and Croatia at Al Janoub Stadium on December 05, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar.
(Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Japan are out of the World Cup – and after the whirlwind comes a whimper. 

The Samurai Blue were so impressive against the Germans and the Spanish in the group stages… yet they converted just one of their four penalties in their ultimate demise, with Croatian goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic saving three from 12 yards. Is it the worst set of penalties any country has had at the World Cup?

Well, perhaps in terms of how badly they were struck. One from four is also the worst record that any team has ever had at a World Cup. But hey, Japan, we're no ones to talk – England join you with that record. 

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Infamously, the Three Lions only managed to score one penalty out of four when they lost to Portugal in 2006. England's only scorer that day was Owen Hargreaves, schooled in Germany. Takuma Asano, Japan's only scorer… plays in Germany. Maybe you need more Germans next time, lads? 

Despite Japan winning twice in the group stage with unbelievably low possession stats, the Samurai Blue took the game to the Croatians in the early stages of the game. It came as a surprise to most, given Hajime Moriyasu’s choice to go with a 3-4-3 – perhaps to cede possession to the likes of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic in midfield and attack on the break – but Japan were lively early on. In one great move from the Japanese down the left of the pitch,Eintracht Frankfurt attacker Daichi Kamada missed from the edge of the six-yard box – embarrassingly, the ball went out for a throw-in.

They got their reward before half-time, too. Celtic man Daizen Maeda was on hand to turn the ball in from a gorgeously-worked corner and after a VAR check, the goal was given. It was the second of such brilliant set-piece routines, too, with another short corner having gone just wide of Dominic Livakovic’s post the same half. 

Croatia had their moments too, however, eventually drawing level. 2018’s runners-up set a good early tempo with within seven minutes, Ivan Perisic was put through after Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu misjudged a backpass – but his North London rival couldn’t beat Shuichi Gonda in goal from a tight angle. Perisic got the goal for the Vatreni though, heading level and breaking a national record for the most goals in major tournaments for the nation. 

The winner of this one faces Brazil or South Korea in the quarter-finals of the tournament. 

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